Thursday, August 24, 2017

Northern California

In an attempt to escape the West Coast smoke, we ventured to Northern California for a summer family vacation. Our itinerary took us from Bandon Beach on the Oregon Coast to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park, with stops in Sonora Pass and Mammoth Lakes along the way. We encountered extreme heat, chilly conditions on the coast and perfect climbing and hiking temperatures at the higher elevations. The trip was a varied tour of the area and a good break from the routine back at home. Highlights included a half-day horseback ride to Relief Reservoir near Sonora Pass, floating in the highly saline waters of Mono Lake, swimming in countless alpine tarns and hiking in scenic alpine locations in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Elise at Bandon Beach, our first stop of the trip.

Sunset at Bandon Beach.

Redwood National Park.

Columns of the Giants, a unique basalt cave near Sonora Pass.

Tedd, a ranger from Tuolumne, in the basalt cave.

Hiking part of the Pacific Crest Trail near Sonora Pass.

Half-day horseback ride to Relief Reservoir near Kennedy Meadows.

Beer cap art courtesy of Elise.

Pam swimming in Relief Reservoir.

Elise swimming in Cleo's Bath, a unique creek pool above Pinecrest Lake.

Devil's Postpile, a unique basalt formation near Mammoth Lakes.

Hot Creek Geological Site near Mammoth Lakes.

Rainbow Falls at Mammoth Lakes.

Columbine in the alpine of Little Lakes Valley.

Hike in Little Lakes Valley.

Cleaning up at our campsite at Minaret Falls.

Lonnie Kauk on the impeccable Tioga Cliff.

Evening sun on Ellery Lake, Tioga Pass.

The Dana Plateau as seen from our campsite at Junction Campground, Tioga Pass.

Smoke from nearby fires greeted us upon arrival.

Bug shelter at Junction Campground. What a great idea!

Tuolumne Meadows in morning light.

Unicorn Peak above Elizabeth Lake. We climbed the high-point on the right.

Summit of Unicorn Peak, Cathedral Range behind.

Ellery Lake

The Tioga Cliff climbing area is centre right above the scree slope.

Pam and Elise at Mammoth Lakes.

Burnt forest landscape below Bear Crag, another local climbing spot.

Tufa formation at Mono Lake.

Elise and I on the summit of Pywiack Dome, Tuolumne Meadows.

Friday, May 26, 2017

West Coast Trail 2017

After a long, wet winter the sun finally came out in mid-May so Elise and I jumped on an opportunity to hike the West Coast Trail, a trip we'd been talking about for over a year. We had a good forecast and a long weekend which meant Elise wouldn't miss much school. We spent five nights and six days hiking the 75-kilometre trail and enjoyed our time together, camping and exploring along the beaches of Vancouver Island's west coast. It was a trip we'll remember for many years to come.

We spent the first night in the Trailhead Lodge so we'd be well rested and clean when we started the next day. Here, Elise poses in a whale skeleton out front.

The worst part of the entire trip was the next morning's four-hour bus ride to the trailhead along endless pot-holed logging roads. This is a necessary evil since the trail is a one-way trip. We left our car at the finish so it would be waiting for us on day six.

Our shiny, clean boots would not stay that way for long...

Elise and I at the start of the West Coast Trail in Pachena Bay near Bamfield. Our packs weighed about 30 lbs and 9 lbs and Elise carried hers for the entire hike.

Big trees, bridges and ladders were the name of the game (along with endless mud).

Sea lion rock on day one. A good place for lunch.

Elise signing the register at the first lighthouse station.

Dinner at Darling Creek, our first campsite.

A dead whale on the beach provided an interesting distraction on day two. Elise wouldn't get anywhere near it...

Walking along sandstone shelves covered in seaweed. This was a much less strenuous option than slogging through the sand.

The West Coast Trail is famous for its ladders, which are plentiful and huge! Here, Elise takes a break midway up.

We saw very few starfish, but the few we did see were huge. Their diminishing numbers are a result of warming sea temps.

We camped at Tsusiat Falls for our second night, one of the most popular sites on the trail. We both braved the cold water and showered under the spray.

The next morning was misty. As we hiked along the beach we ran into a river otter, which Elise spotted first!

The presence of kilometre markers are a rare treat that allow hikers to track their progress.

Many of the muddy boardwalks are in terrible disrepair. In fact, some pose the biggest hazard on the hike and its best to steer clear.

On day three we stopped at Nitnat narrows, a mandatory ferry crossing in a First Nations reserve. A snack shack on the wharf serves meals to hungry hikers. We splurged and split a massive Dungeness crab, a treat Elise had never tried before.

She loved the meat, but struggled with the shell cracker.

Some of the ancient trees along this trail are a sight to behold. Elise poses at the base of a magnificent Sitka spruce.

Night three was spent at Cribs Creek, another gorgeous spot on the sand. We enjoyed a campfire with friends we had made over the past couple of days.

The Carmanah Point lighthouse station provided a nice place to break on the morning of day four.

Just past the lighthouse was the second spot on the trail where it's possible to buy food. Elise and I gorged on butter tarts and Nanaimo bars while the owner's daughter looked on.

Our fourth night was spent at Walbran Creek, possibly the nicest campsite of them all. After dinner we enjoyed a fire with Koda, Owen and Sam.

Day five dawned rainy, much to our dismay. But it wouldn't be a hike on the West Coast Trail without a bit of wetness, right?

The terrain on this day was some of the most rugged on the entire trail. We traversed through jungle-like forests and across swamps. The highlight were the interesting wildflowers alongside the boardwalks.

Dinner at Campers Cove, our fifth and final night on the trail.

We woke at 4:30 am, a record for Elise, to take advantage of the low tides on Owen Point. Day six proved to be long and difficult, but the features along the coast were nothing short of spectacular.

We arrived at the final ferry crossing at 1:30 pm. Our shoes weren't shiny any more! Once across, we signed ourselves off the trail, grabbed the truck and headed straight to Tim Horton's in Lake Cowicahn. Donuts for a job well done!